Fine up to Rs 20 cr likely for green violators

Fine up to Rs 20 cr likely for green violators

The Union Environment Ministry has proposed modification of two green laws to impose a fine up to Rs 20 crore on major environment violators, who would also have to pay a daily fine of Rs 1 crore if the damage continues.

Amendments have also been proposed for a second green law to do away with the common practice of violators taking shelter under a legal cover for non-payment of fines.

The fine would increase depending on how far the consequences of the ecological damage would be felt. Maximum fine would be imposed if the damage impacts an area beyond 10-km radius from the project site. If the impact is felt between 5-10 km, the maximum fine would be Rs 15 crore and the daily penalty Rs 75 lakh. If the impact is limited to within 5 km, penalty would be Rs 5 crore along with a daily fine of Rs 50 lakh.

To determine if an offence belongs to the “substantial”, “non-substantial” or “minor” category, the green ministry proposes to create an adjudicating authority consisting of at least two members from either the government or the judiciary for any inquiry.

These are some of the proposed amendments to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The amount collected would be pooled into a fund and used to remedy and reclaim polluted sites.

Amendments have also been mooted for the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, asking the quasi-judicial body to entertain appeals only if violators deposit 75 per cent of the penalty with the adjudicating authority.

For non-substantial damages, the penalty would vary between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 crore, along with a daily fine of Rs 1 lakh. The penalties are to be paid within 90 days.
In case of minor violations, there is provision of on-the-spot penalty ranging between Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000. If the violation continues, there would be a daily fine of up to Rs 5,000.

While the authority would be given a time window of six months to decide, those who approach the adjudicator would also have to pay a fee.

Under the existing law, anyone found violating environmental laws can be fined Rs 1 lakh and imprisoned for up to five years, which can be extended up to seven years. The new amendment is the first move from the NDA government to curb ecological violations.
Environmentalists, however, feel that the move to form an adjudicating authority would dilute the NGT's powers.

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